Guatemala 5 Volcano Challenge

Hike and summit five of Guatemala's volcanoes - dubbed 'The Ring of Fire' - ending up at spectacular Lake Atitlan

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Trip Ref #10037

Guatemala 5 Volcano Challenge

Hike and summit five of Guatemala's volcanoes - dubbed 'The Ring of Fire' - ending up at spectacular Lake Atitlan

DURATION

9 nights

LOCATION

Guatemala

ANNUAL LEAVE

7 days off work

SEASON

All year round

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

La Aurora Airport, Guatemala City

ACCOMMODATION

Classic

Hotel · Campsite

OVERALL RATING

4.8

Based on 24 reviews
DIFFICULTY

Challenging

You'll need a good level of fitness to scale 5 peaks in 8 days, but no previous mountaineering experience or technical skills are required

Take in the views as you stand on top of Tajumulco volcano (4220m): the highest point of Central America

See each of Guatemala's 3 active volcanoes, including the continuously erupting 'Volcan de Fuego'

Watch the sunrise from Acatenango volcano with 360 degree views all the way to Mexico

Day 1

Explore Antigua

You'll be met at the airport and in Guatemala City for your 1 hour transfer to Antigua: the base for the first of volcano climb. After settling into your hotel, you'll have free time to wander Antigua's cobbled streets and browse the myriad street stalls.

Day 2

Hike Pacaya Volcano (2288m)

Hiking

3-4hrs · 6km · 400m up · 400m down

In the morning you'll get straight to the task at hand: climbing volcanoes. You'll meet the group and drive to the trailhead of Pacaya volcano, lace up your hiking boots and head for the summit. The route to the top weaves through lava fields, formed by eruptions as recent as 2010. Geothermal hotspots can be found on the cooled lava formations; you can even roast marshmallows here to fuel your hike.

When you reach Pacaya's peak - your first of five volcano summits - you'll enjoy a picnic overlooking neighbouring volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. You'll head back to Antigua for the evening: grab a beer and some classic Central American food from Antigua's many street stalls, bars, restaurants and cafes.

Day 3

Acatenango Volcano Hike and Overnight Camp (3750m)

Hiking

5-6hrs · 8km · 1100m up

You'll grab a big breakfast in Antigua before heading to the trailhead at La Soledad. Today's volcano hike is up the imposing Acatenango. The hike starts off through farmland and small villages, before ascending into a cloud forest. This is an area of high biodiversity, home to the famous Quetzal bird. You'll soon be greeted with sweeping views of the highlands and neighbouring volcanoes: a good time for a scenic refuel as you picnic on the volcano slopes.

After hiking through temperate forest, you'll reach the private camp spot at 3750m above sea level, cut into the slopes just below the tree line. Enjoy a fresh camp dinner and a night around the campfire. You are likely to have views of Fuego volcano belching fumes into the sky, just 4km away. It is an active volcano, with its last major eruption in 2018.

Day 4

Sunrise on Acatenango Volcano (3976m) and descend to Quetzaltenango

Hiking

2-3 hours · 7km · 475m up · 1575m down

You'll rise early to complete the hour-long hike to the summit of Acatenango, along a sand and scree covered trail. Reaching the cold and windswept summit, you'll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the entire Guatemalan highlands, all the way to the border of Mexico.

You'll descend via a different route, moving through several different micro-climates as you lose altitude. Back at the trailhead, you'll jump in the van and head towards Guatemala's second largest city, Quetzaltenango - also known by its Mayan name, Xela. Check into your hotel and enjoy a free evening in this lively city.

Day 5

Hike up Santa Maria Volcano (3770m)

Hiking

6-7hrs · 10km · 1200m up · 1200m down

Next up is your third volcano peak: Santa Maria. Again you'll have an early start - but as the well-known phrase goes: the early bird summits the volcano! There is a 45 minute drive to reach the village of Llanos del Pinal where your hike starts.

Santa Maria has a fairly steep ascent to the summit along a dirt trail. After 4 or 5 hours of hiking, you'll have earnt your summit views: a spectacular bird's eye view of Santa Maria's sister volcano, the active Santiaguito. From high up on Santa Maria, you'll be able to look down into the fiery crater of Santiaguito. If you're lucky you may get to witness an eruption. Back at your hotel in Xela, you'll have a free evening to explore the city and chill after another incredible day of volcano hiking.

Day 6

Hike Tuichan Volcano - Central America's Highest Point (4219m)

Hiking

5-6hrs · 8km · 1100 up

Another early start for a 3 hour drive to Tuichan, close to the border with Mexico. Tuichan is the base for your climb up Tajumulco, Guatemala's highest volcano and the highest point in all of Central America. The hiking today is fairly easy going, but it's a long day with around 7 or 8 hours of hiking. There are beautiful forest trails and pine studded ridges on the way to your camp spot for the night. You'll put your head down to sleep at roughly 4000m above sea level - but not just yet.

From the camp, the volcano summit is a steep climb for 30 minutes more, topping out at 4219m. You're officially on the top of Central America! Another awesome night of wild volcano camping awaits on the short descent back to camp.

Day 7

Descend Tajumulco and drive to Lake Atitlan

Hiking

2-3 hours · 5km · 20m up · 1120m down

Wake up on the volcano and make your descent down Tajumulco. You have a long drive to recover on, with a lunch stop en route, through the Guatemalan highlands to spectacular Lake Atitlan. You'll take a boat across the lake from Panajachel to your lakeside eco-hotel in the small town of San Pedro. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy this special place. Head in to town or just lie in a hammock and bask in the views of water and fire - lake and volcanoes all around you.

Day 8

Hike up San Pedro Volcano (3020m)

Hiking

7-8hrs · 9km · 1200m up · 1200m down

You may have been relaxing, but this adventure isn't over yet! Today is your fifth and final volcano summit: San Pedro volcano. After breakfast beside the lake, you'll take a boat across to the trail head. Experience your final epic hike through cloud forest, with sweeping highland vistas and spectacular views back down towards Lake Atitlan. At over 3000m, San Pedro volcano is no baby, but a fitting place to end your volcano hiking adventure.

Day 9

Unwind at Lake Atitlan

Congratulations: you've summited five volcanoes in a week! You've certainly earned a rest day, so the lake and eco-hotel is yours to soak up as you wish. There are kayaks available for use, or you can head to one of the best swimming spots at the lake. If you have some energy left, you can opt to head out ziplining or take a trip to nearby Mayan villages. Late in the afternoon you'll head back to Antigua for a final evening celebrating with your week of volcano summits with your group.

Day 10

Head back to the airport

Enjoy breakfast in Antigua and any spare time you may have before your host takes you back to the airport in Guatemala City for your departure flight.

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking local guides

Accommodation

7 nights in local hotels. 2 nights camping on volcanoes.

Transfers

To and from the airport, and everything in between

Meals

8 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 2 dinners of tasty Central American food

Equipment

All of the camping equipment for sleeping on the Acatenango and Tajumulco volcanoes is provided

Permits

All permits and entry fees

Not Included

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Some meals as described

Tips for your guides

Flights to and from the meeting point

Visas where required

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3

Campsite · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4 – Day 5

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Campsite · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 9

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Traditional Guatemalan food is based on Maya cuisine with Spanish influences. Classic meals usually include corn, beans, chillies, rice, pork, beef, chicken, cheese and tortillas as staple ingredients. Picnic lunches are provided on hiking days.

Your host has deliberately not included the evening meals in Antigua, Xela and Atitlan in your trip. Guatemala is cheap and it's great fun to explore the food options in each place. Antigua in particular is a food lover's dream, the street food scene here is worth investing some time and Quetzals in.

Camp dinners on Acatenango and Tajumulco are real highlights of the trip. Your guide will prep Guatemalan food on the slopes while you take in the views of the neighbouring, and often erupting, volcanic peaks.

Vegetarian, vegan and most other dietary requirements can be accomodated on this trip.

What is the accommodation like?

Antigua: Casa Antigua

In Antigua your base will be at Casa Antigua.

Quetzaltenango: Hotel Modelo

In Quetzaltenango you'll stay in Hotel Modelo: a charming, historic hotel run by four generations of the same family.

Lake Atitlan: San Pedro la Laguna

At Lake Atitlan you'll stay at Sak'cari in San Pedro La Laguna. This is an eco-hotel right on the waterfront, run on renewable energy and with an amazing pool with views of the lake and volcanoes. It's the perfect spot to wind down after all the volcano action.

Volcano Camping

You'll also camp on volcanoes Acatenango and Tajumulco. All of your camping gear is provided; tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. Be advised that night time on the volcanoes can be quite cold, so do bring warm layers with you. There will be campfires to keep you toasty at dinner time, while stargazing and watching Fuego volcano do its thing.

Upgrades

All hotel rooms and tents on the trip are based on twin sharing. So for solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked throughout the trip (subject to availability). See Optional Extras for prices.

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City (GUA)

Arrive any time on Day 1

Ends

La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City (GUA)

Depart any time on Day 10

Transfers

Transfers between La Aurora International Airport (GUA) and your hotel in Antigua are provided for any flight arriving on Day 1, and departing on Day 10 of the trip.

If you wish to arrive earlier or stay on later, your host can arrange private transfers for an additional cost. See Optional Extras for details.

Travel options

There are direct flights to La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City from many destinations in the US, and via Madrid from Europe.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • All of the camping equipment for sleeping on the Acatenango and Tajumulco volcanoes is provided

What do I need to bring?

Bags

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack
  • Waterproof liner for rucksack or drybags

Clothes

  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Thermals (merino is best)
  • Warm hat
  • Buff or neckscarf
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals

Other

  • Padlock for left luggage
  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellant
  • Suncream
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry out)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle x 1 ltr
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks
  • Water purification tablets/treatment system

Optional Private Room / Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room / Tent Upgrade

Per Person

Single room in Antigua

Payable Before Departure

Single room in Antigua

Per Night

Private transfer between Guatemala City and Antigua (each way)

Payable Before Departure

Private transfer between Guatemala City and Antigua (each way)

- Emily(December 2022)

Don’t think about it, just GO - this was one of the most amazing things I did in two months of travelling around Central America and was the perfect end to my trip. The hiking is the right amount of challenging, you will push yourself but the guides are very encouraging and do an excellent job at managing different abilities of the group who go at different paces. A bit of training to prepare would make it easier but I didn’t do anything specific beyond being fairly active (walking, running etc) and I was fine.

The accommodation is much more comfortable than I expected, after each camping night you have two nights in a really nice hotel to recuperate so you’re well rested. Food is also good and varied, and on the nights where dinner isn’t included, the guides often had recommendations and came out to eat with us. The guides are generally amazing - Vinny, Josias and Willy took such good care of us, they were fun and friendly and knowledgeable. They also handled problems so calmly and cheerfully and had great first aid and safety knowledge, they looked after us very well.

The volcanoes themselves are incredible - sleeping next to an erupting volcano is once in a lifetime and something I’ll never forget.

My only tip is pack warmly! It was around freezing when we were on top of the volcanoes and I wasn’t prepared, you’ll need thermals and woolly hat and gloves and proper cold weather gear. Don’t be fooled like I was into thinking it surely doesn’t get that cold in Central America.

- Andrew(December 2022)

Out of this world trip to Guatemala to visit the 5 Volcano’s.

The group (fellow travellers guides and office staff) were amazing.

The experience of sleeping above the clouds, under the stars, next to an erupting volcano will be with me for the the rest of my life!

The trip is challenging but most people who have a moderate level of fitness should be able to complete this amazing adventure

- Marina(December 2022)

Absolutely incredible trip offering a great combination of hiking, exploring and relaxing! Local team (Jossua, Diana, Alejandro and Gustavo) were fantastic - extremely friendly, enthusiastic and simply amazing. Food in the camps was delicious. A perfect “taster” trip for people who are interested to try hiking and camping at an altitude.

- Sean(December 2022)

This was a fantastic trip with multiple once in a life time experiences. Seeing Fuego erupting from the side of Acatenango is something I will never forget and likely never experience anything similar again. The guide team was absolutely wonderful (Willy, Beni and Josias) being there for us every step of the way and ensuring a really great trip.

- Harjit(December 2022)

I’ve been lucky enough to do a number of hikes and this one will live long in the memory. It was tough at times due to time spent in the bus and gradient / altitude but 100% worth it for the views atop Acatenango and Tajumulco especially. The guides were great and really came through when one trip member sadly suffered a slight injury. The guides were professional, empathetic and made sure everyone was safe. Would 100% recommend.

- Andy(November 2022)

The trip was fantastic, it included lots of food with options to go back for more if you were hungry which was ideal for me! Luiz, Vini &Christa were fantastic guides. It was much better having local guides, they taught us all about the countries history, culture, Mayan spirituality and had fantastic English. The highlight of the trip was camping opposite Fuego, sunrise on Tajumulco was a very close second and the lake was out of this world - YOU WILL NOT BE BORED!

- Milda(November 2022)

This was a brilliant adventure! I highly recommend it. My favourite activity was swimming in a pool heated by the volcano. After a long day of hiking and sitting on a bus, it felt magical to swim in this hot pool surrounded by the jungle. Some advise: you need an ESTA to transit through USA. Also, being fit will make a big difference. The climbs are steep and the pace is fast. Finally, visit Ta’Cool for some cocktails and tacos in Antigua.

- Celia(November 2022)

Good trip but could have been a bit more organised

- Daniel(November 2022)

The 5 Volcano Challenge proved to be an epic quest with the most extraordinary group of people. The guides were some of the most happy I have had the pleasure of being with, which is difficult to maintain over the course of a trip. I was fortunate to be with an amazing group, with whom I shared some spectacular experiences, such as; being sat around a camp fire watching Fuego erupt through the evening, colourful colonial building in Antigua providing stunning vistas, the vibrant street art of San Juan complimenting the idyllic Lake Atitlan.

Be prepared for long bus journeys on busy roads and full days out. Set your expectations that this is a hiking trip and there isn't much time to explore the cities and towns in the daylight. I would advise that you bring a sleeping bag liner in addition to the kit list provided.

I would recommend this trip any day of the the week and the organisation of Much Better Adventures.

- Simon(November 2022)

Overall very good, guides Luis and Vini were helpful/enthusiastic. Highlights were seeing the lava of Fuego from Acatenango and the sunrise on Tajumulco.

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 221kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

You'll need a good level of fitness for this trip. You'll be scaling 5 volcanoes in 10 days and some of the ascents are steep. However you won't need any technical ability or mountain climbing experience. You'll just be happy hiking for several hours a day and being active for several days in a row.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Dry season runs from November to March, with the fringe months of October and April also being good times to visit. The Guatemalan highlands have a great climate for hiking, with lows of 10°C and highs of 27°C generally.

Be aware that the nights camping on Acatenango and Tajumulco volcanoes will be cold as you are sleeping at around 4000m above sea level. Make sure to pack enough warm layers for this part. Thermals, fleeces or light down jackets will be fine.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion. Your guide will help with advice however, we suggest the amount below as a guideline per person:

Guide: 3-5 US dollars a day

Of course, you are free to tip more or less and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink, so you'll need to stick to bottled or filtered water. Each hotel you'll stay in will have filtered water where you can fill up your bottles before each hike. Your host is passionate about reducing single-use plastic waste in Guatemala, so they won't provide plastic bottles of drinking water at any stage.

Yes, for the two overnight volcano camps everyone in the group pitches in and helps carry the camping gear: sleeping bags, pads and parts of the tent you will be using. This is all part of the experience of hiking to the top of a volcano and pitching up for a night sleeping out on the summit.

Additional porters for the overnight camp sections are available to hire locally at an extra cost: $25USD each way. Your host in Guatemala has worked alongside local communities around the volcanoes to help set up a guide association to ensure fair pay for porters and guides, and high safety standards for all visitors to the volcanoes.

Yes you can leave your excess luggage in Antigua if you need to. Be aware that you won't be returning to Antigua until the end of the trip, so you'll need to take everything with you for the volcano climbs.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

For current advice about travelling in Guatemala, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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